Born a slave in North Carolina, Brown lived with Quakers in Ohio and Indiana, where he purchased his freedom. Ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal church, Brown travelled often to visit small congregations. Remembered as a lifelong humanitarian who helped all in need, he used his connections to participate in the underground railroad that assisted escaping slaves make their way to freedom. He also took part in the 1853 Illinois Colored Convention. The Rev. Brown led Lincoln's horse in the Springfield funeral procession for the fallen president. After the Civil War he spoke often at public events, recalling the past and celebrating the destruction of slavery.